Archive for September, 2008

”Mat Herpes” Hits Sumo Wrestlers With Full Force

By Boonsri Dickinson | September 30, 2008 4:04 pm

sumo.jpgWatch out rugby players and sumo wrestlers: The unsightly, cold sore-causing skin disease known as “scrumpox” or herpes gladiatorum—or, as athletes call it, “mat herpes”— is easily spread through close contact with broken skin, and may be coming to a field or mat near you.

A strain of mat herpes has already invaded the U.S.: As many as 20 to 40 percent of wrestlers in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association have been infected with herpes gladiatorum.

Now, researchers at Tokyo University have studied how the virus spread in sumo wrestlers in Japan, and found that the virus is likely more pathogenic than previously thought, according to the October issue of the Journal of General Virology.

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MORE ABOUT: herpes, sports

The Latest Gift for a Mobile Grandma: A Wearable Airbag

By Boonsri Dickinson | September 29, 2008 12:57 pm

fall.jpgFor around the price of a laptop ($1,400), you can protect your grandmother from falling down. Prop, a Japanese based company, has created the perfect present for those elderly relatives: an inflatable airbag, which they displayed at the International Home Care and Rehabilitation Exhibition in Tokyo. It’s only 2.4 pounds, but it looks like a fanny pack and is currently available in Japan.

The airbag works like this: When a person wearing the bag is about to fall backwards, electronic sensors signal the airbag system to pump 3.9 gallons of gas into each of the two bags, just in time to carefully protect the person from falling on their head and rear end.

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Weekly Science Blog Roundup

By Boonsri Dickinson | September 26, 2008 2:20 pm

roundup-22022.jpg· The “Father of the internet” says the Web will run out of IP addresses in 2010.

· Chances are, if you’re reading this, you spend 25 percent of your time doing personal tasks online at work.

· Google’s Tenth Birthday contest: The five best ideas to help as many people around the world as possible will get a total of $10 million in funding. Hurry! Submissions are due by October 20th.

· Dear Sarah Palin: In case you hadn’t noticed, a village in Alaska is melting.

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MORE ABOUT: google, the internet, viagra

Can't Nobody Hold NASA Down

By Boonsri Dickinson | September 25, 2008 5:25 pm

alien.jpgEven P. Diddy hasn’t rapped about science. But that didn’t stop NASA from paying a post-grad student named Jonathan Chase to write a hip-hop song for the European edition of its Astrobiology Magazine. NASA wanted Chase to help make astrobiology reach out to the known life in the universe (us!), rather than unknown life in space.

We can’t help but wonder, did NASA really want a scientific hip-hop song so badly that they asked a British guy to rap? Still, on the science end, Chase is far from unqualified: He studied aerospace engineering and science fiction in college, and is currently studying science communication in graduate school. [Clarification: While folks at NASA's Astrobiology Magazine did invite Chase to contribute the rap, they did not actually pay him for it. In case you were worried about your hard-earned tax dollars going to rhyming limeys.]

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MORE ABOUT: NASA, rap

Superstitions Aren’t Silly; They’re Evolutionary.

By Boonsri Dickinson | September 25, 2008 12:17 pm

number-13.jpgBreak a mirror and you’re stuck with bad luck. Walk under a ladder and you’re tempting fate. Sound ridiculous? Scientists believe such beliefs may be genetic, part of adaptive behaviors passed on to create an evolutionary advantage to surviving impeding danger.

Boiled down, a superstition is the belief that one event caused another event, without any evidence of the link. “All animals will display behaviors that imply a causal relationship that isn’t there,” says Kevin Foster, evolutionary biologist at Harvard University. Foster uses a pigeon as an example: The pigeon will take flight if it hears a hand clap, the same way it would react if it heard a gun shot.

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For Chimps, a Rear End Is Worth a Thousand Faces

By Boonsri Dickinson | September 24, 2008 3:19 pm

chimps.jpgChances are, you’ve seen more than one guy on the street turn to stare at a woman’s rear end. Now it looks like men aren’t the only ones: A new study found that chimps can recognize other chimps simply by looking at photos of their butts.

Well-known Emory University primatologist Frans de Waal discovered that chimpanzees could match up pictures of other chimps’ rear ends and genitals to pictures of the corresponding faces—though it only worked if the observer knew the photo subject personally. “They were not only seeing the photographs as representations of chimps they knew,” says de Waal, “but linked the face and behind by drawing upon a mental representation of the whole body of those chimps.”

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Mind-Reading Machine Puts Woman in Jail for Murder

By Boonsri Dickinson | September 24, 2008 1:09 pm

2215248753_24ae663c07.jpgWill a new brain scan test put an end to lying in court? A judge in India recently used a brain scan to convict a 24-year-old woman of murdering her fiancé.

In a new and controversial way of gathering incriminating evidence, the defendant was read details of her fiancé’s death while electrodes were hooked up to her head to measure her brain waves. Afterwards, the authorities used processing software to analyze the brain scans, revealing that the woman’s brain lit up when she heard information that only the killer would know.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?
MORE ABOUT: crime, lie detection

Rubber Duckie, You’re the One…Who Will Help Us Understand Global Warming

By Boonsri Dickinson | September 23, 2008 5:34 pm

rubber-duck.jpgNASA researchers have released 90 rubber ducks into the Greenland’s Jakobshavn Glacier—the same glacier that may have sunk the Titanic a century ago—in an attempt to understand why glaciers move faster in the summer and why sea levels change.

Because the Jakobshavn Glacier is known to discharge as much as seven percent of Greenland’s melting icesheets, NASA researchers are specifically interested in knowing how the meltwater moves through the glacier. While they can clearly see how the icebergs fall into the ocean, it’s impossible to see exactly how the water flows. In theory, as the sun warms the ice in the summer, the top layer of the glacier melts and flows through a hole in the glacier until it reaches the other side. As such, the researchers suspect the rubber ducks will end up in the surrounding water in Baffin Bay.

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MORE ABOUT: global warming, Ocean

Dating a Dud? Blame It on Biology

By Boonsri Dickinson | September 23, 2008 11:32 am

kiss.jpgWe know that women can look at a man’s face and judge whether he has the potential to be a good father. But looks can only go so far—it’s really your genes that matter. In the latest study on love and attraction, a group of scientists found that people in Europe and the U.S. choose partners with dissimilar immune cells, ultimately leading to children with stronger immune systems.

The researchers measured the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC)—a large region of the genome linked to the immune system and body odor—of 30 European American couples, and compared them to 30 Nigerian couples.

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MORE ABOUT: dating, sex

In Terrible Pain? Then Head to an Art Museum!

By Boonsri Dickinson | September 22, 2008 2:56 pm

pain-hands.jpgPharmaceutical companies, make room for this news: Art can be used as a painkiller too.

As research shows, music helps ease emotional pain, and at the very least, it helps us relax. In a recent Italian study, researchers found that visual art can help ease physical pain.

Researchers in Italy asked twelve men and women to judge 300 pieces of art, and rate it as ugly or beautiful. While the participants judged the art’s aesthetics, the researchers zapped them with a laser pulse.

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MORE ABOUT: art, pain
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